THE DIVIDED (AND DISSECTED) HEARTJanuary 07, 2009
I AM still reading Rachel Power’s The Divided Heart and you’ll note I continue to avoid the real subhead – Motherhood. Thanks Rachel. Your ...
I AM still reading Rachel Power’s The Divided Heart and you’ll note I continue to avoid the real subhead – Motherhood. Thanks Rachel. Your book’s title has become code for something else entirely - or not, as the case may be.
I enjoyed reading the comments made here about parenting. Some said the decision to be a parent was not one they were ready to make. Some shared a brief insight into their own experiences and in so many of your blogs I read daily the highs and lows of family life.
I read, just after my post, an article about families with both adopted and birth children. The honest assessment of parents interviewed was that they’d lay down their life for their birth children but that, though they loved their adopted children, they felt differently about them. In mainstream media little is written about step-parenting and this article was the nearest approximation of how I felt as a step-parent.
Some years ago I did search online for step-parenting forums but backed out of discussion groups as quickly as I’d been eager to enter them. They were vile. Step-parents airing vitriol against the children they’d knowingly taken into their lives and against the other adults in the child’s life – usually their partner’s ex. Surely, when people embark on a relationship with a parent they understand they’re entering a relationship with several people. I’m not saying it’s an easy thing but if these forums were a snapshot of step-parents it’s no wonder they have such a bad rap. Since then I’ve never ventured to find whether the general discourse has changed and the fact I am asked for honest advice about blended families suggests it probably hasn’t.
For a little light reading over New Year’s I picked Joanne Harris’ The Lollipop Shoes from the library shelves. It’s the sequel to Chocolat. Harris’ Chocolat is a favourite of mine, along with Blackberry Wine.
One paragraph, early in The Lollipop Shoes, stood out.
Show me a mother, and I’ll show you a liar. We tell them how the world should be: that there are no such things as monsters or ghosts; that if you do good, then people will do good to you; that Mother will always be there to protect you. Of course we never call them lies – we mean so well, it’s all for the best – but that’s what they are, nevertheless.
Vianne Rocher’s views on what must be done to protect her children resonated with me in the same way the article on parenting adopted children did. The biological parent, and please argue the point if you see it differently, can turn a blind eye. The outsider often sees the truth much more clearly, without the emotional shades of grey.
I am quick to look among the Girl Guides in my unit and notice shifts in dynamics, squabbles that may have taken place over the week, a word, a look, a clinging to one child – or adult. I am quick to see potential for conflict and manipulate the dynamic to avoid, or at best dilute it.
In a family environment, that’s not so easy. I am a part of the dynamic and to avoid conflict I often remain mute – a position that can be thrown back at me as an evasion of responsibility. To weigh in, I am reminded my views are second rate and interfering – especially when they fail to lend support to a favoured argument. If a child doesn’t like what my outsider’s eye sees, it can be turned against me and used to deflect unwanted attention on the child. It’s learned behaviour. Children are cunning. When they learned to walk and talk and tie their shoelaces we found them adorable. When they learn to navigate and manipulate the volatile dynamics of blended families their techniques are just as imaginative and, really, to be applauded, if it weren’t for the fact you end up the testing ground for their arsenal.
I know there’s room to write more on this subject, to speak up for those who feel they, like me, have nothing of value to say. I haven’t the energy right now and my particular family dynamic makes me, quite possibly, the wrong person to do so. There are too many taboos to contend with. For now it’s enough to have written about it here.
Tomorrow … life in general, and a big decision. I'm not sure it’s going to prove all that exciting, but stay tuned.